She lay motionless on the wet ground to gather her wits before sitting up. Aubrianna raised her hand and stared at the two skeleton keys on a simple silver ring. Strange. Who carries skeleton keys? She slipped the key ring onto her index finger and struggled amidst her many layers of petticoats to stand. She straightened and glanced around her. Total silence. How odd, she mused. Even the birds and butterflies have disappeared? Sunlight vanished, and she looked skyward. Dark, angry clouds rolled across the sky. A loud crash of thunder startled her, and she jumped. Light rain pelted her face. Great! I'll be soaked by the time I reach the house.
Aubrianna cast a quick glance down to her feet while retracing her footsteps along the familiar path. Fog crept along the ground, swirling and wrapping its damp blanket around her. She quickened her pace. The fog thickened and raced ahead, creating an opaque gray wall.
"Crazy weather," she mumbled, turning a sharp corner. Her hand stretched out in front of her, she blindly found her way.
She stepped headlong into a solid, dark mass. A scream emanated from deep in her throat when two strong hands gripped her shoulders to steady her. A sharp tingle of awareness radiated down to the knot forming in her stomach.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" A deep baritone voice soothed her frayed nerves, easing the tension in her body.
"I should ask you the same, sir." She steadied herself and wiggled her way out of his grasp. "We are closed for the day. Now, move out of my way. I'm getting soaked to the skin."
"Allow me." His fingers curled around her forearm and pulled her resisting body behind him. She struggled to free herself from the tall masculine figure.
Who the hell does he think he is?
They emerged into the clearing, and he led her up to the back of the manor. Aubrianna stumbled along behind in an effort to keep pace with his long strides. He pulled her up the stair and dragged her across the veranda. Yanking open one of the four glass-paned doors, he shoved her over the threshold.
How dare he just open my door, waltz in like he owns the place, and manhandle me!
Aubrianna jerked free of his grasp and whirled around to confront him. "What are you doing here? Who are you?"
"You should be answering to me, wench." His lips curled in a sardonic smile.
"I happen to live here. This is my home."
His cavernous laughter rumbled, reverberating through the room. "Madam, permit me to introduce myself. I am Lord Keane Hamilton Chadwick IV. This is my home. It has been in my family for more than one hundred and fifty years. Now, explain why you are on my estate."